The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) finally admitted last night on the current affairs programme, FOKUS, on SABC2 that it realized that its trains were under siege from criminals, but blatantly misled the public by stating that the passenger rail operator has taken steps to improve security measures.
Steve Harris, General Secretary of the United National Transport Union (UNTU), and Wyndham Evans, President of the Union, took a train trip on the notorious Central Line between Cape Town and Khayelitsha with UNTU Executive Council Member Brian Davids last week.
“We asked the train driver to press the emergency button. He did several times, only to find that the phones were not answered. On our return, we went to the Control Room and asked the Control Official to phone a train driver and ask him to push the button. He did three times, only to find that it was not ringing in the Control Room. This just proves the point of train drivers as to how vulnerable and exposed they are when a train can’t continue on route, due to whatever reason,” says Harris.
He brought this to the attention of Richard Walker, the Regional Manager of PRASA in the Western Cape, who did not even bother to take the time to accompany the leadership of the majority Union in PRASA on the trip. Walker had several poor excuses for the lack of response.
This comes a month after UNTU asked Lindikhaya Zide, Acting Group Chief Executive of PRASA, in writing on 14 June 2017 to immediately ask Walker to resign from his position due to his incompetence to fulfil the mandate of PRASA towards the South African commuters and taxpayers and his inability to implement preventative measures to protect PRASA employees in his region.
The Union made the demand after a rampage of furious commuters at the Cape Town Station on 12 June 2017, which could have been prevented had Walker acted timeously to inform potential commuters that the trains were delayed with between two to three hours. Zide has yet to respond to the Unions demand.
Last night PRASA’S spokesperson, Nana Zenani, assured the public on FOKUS that several more security officials were deployed to protect their employees and commuters travelling on the trains.
Zenani reverted to train safety as a holistic problem and said that PRASA first had to check if they were acting within its mandate if they were issuing its protection officers with firearms instead of battens.
She neglected to say that thanks to PRASA’S lack of vetting of employees in the past, several of these protection officers does not qualify as suitable candidates to handle firearms and will therefore not get a firearm licence if they apply for them.
Zenani was also not able to go into detail of the so-called improved measures, even after confronted with the fact that PRASA did not fulfil its promise to the family of slain UNTU train driver, Piet Botha after he was shot waiting on the platform of the Netreg Station in July last year,” Harris says.
UNTU filed a supplementary affidavit at the Western Cape High Court asking it to hear the Union’s application on train safety urgently.
PRASA has done nothing to improve the working conditions and security of its employees. It has not implemented any additional security measures at stations and on trains along the Central Line, despite the increase in violent incidents over the past month.
Employees should not have to resort to court to force an employer to comply with their legal obligations to do all they can to protect their employees. UNTU members cannot continue to put their lives at risk on a daily basis. The risk they are faced with is not remote. It is real. Under the current circumstances, it is more than likely that more UNTU members will become victims of violent crimes along the Central Line,” Harris says in his affidavit.
PRASA has not yet responded.
For more information phone Harris at 082 566 5516.
Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Media and Liaison Officer. For UNTU Press Statements phone 082 463 6806 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org